When Theresa May called a general election in April, she did so under the impression that Tory voters would come out in enthusiastic droves to bolster her party support in the House and strengthen support for Brexit negotiations. The first month after her announcement saw her party leading Labour, the main opposition, by 20 points, the dismal gap a trench far wider than the distance between benches in the House of Commons.
Today, the numbers have reversed. According to a YouGov poll published by the Independent, May’s popularity has dropped 44 points since she announced the snap election. Corbyn’s rating, previously at a historic low, has increased 42 points.
Corbyn is, despite his occasional disheveled appearance during PMQ’s and media criticism of his choice in suit color, hip and unassuming. He’s an unexpected leader, but one whose left of the left politics provide a stark alternative to austerity policies that continues to squeeze the middle class. Things aren’t changing, it’s kind of unclear how May intends to proceed on Brexit negotiations (not that Britain is particularly thrilled about these negotiations in general), she successfully alienated senior, and typically
reliably Conservative voting constituents, with a social care reform proposition that would halt the current automatic state pension increase of 2.5% per year, and she declined to appear in a live television debate against her opponents, indicating a distasteful cockiness or a lack of faith in her own strength and sturdiness. Corbyn is the hipster cool foil to May’s stiff, stuffy, and suspect gentility. And, for once, it was the Labour backbenchers laughing at their opposition when Parliament reconvened on Tuesday afternoon, and Corbyn delivered a promise that if May failed to form a coalition, the “strong and stable” Labour party would step in and deliver.
Although, there are certainly critics who have pointed out the obvious: a loss is, indeed, a loss, and in Corbyn’s case, his third consecutive loss in his bid for parliamentary majority and prime minister, though the circumstances under which the last two elections were called are rather unprecedented given their relationship to the once-unimaginable and now all-too-real impending Brexit. Besides, a gain of 30 seats compared to a Conservative loss of 13 is an impressive surge, particularly in light of Corbyn’s morbid and steadily declining approval ratings just months before his consistent, on-message campaign helped reverse the failing figures.
Now, the real question is whether or not May will resign. And it’s really not a question of if, but of when. How can a leader who assumed, so assuredly, that her party would strengthen and dominate remain in office when the exact opposite manifested after voters went to the polls? It certainly demonstrates a lack of confidence in her leadership abilities and perhaps a shift in loyalties. According to the YouGov poll, Conservative voters’ 85% confidence rating has dropped to 57%.
Corbyn is confident his fourth go at the U.K.’s top political leadership position is glimmering on the line where the Thames joins the horizon and has recently stated that his party is on “permanent campaign footing in anticipation of the failure of Theresa May’s attempt to establish a stable administration.” He’s also made a few new shadow cabinet appointments, including formal rival Owen Smith to shadow Northern Ireland secretary. Smith contested Corbyn in the election immediately following the referendum, when party infighting almost brought an end to Corbyn’s leadership run. The divide was (and, after this initial honeymoon period of post-election goodwill among party members subsides, will probably still be) ugly. Nevertheless, Smith has commended Corbyn on a campaign well run, and we choose to forget the days when he vehemently criticized his inability to unite his party. Ah the civility of forgiveness of rivalries pass… could you imagine if Trump actually appointed Chris Christie to a cabinet position instead of stringing him along and telling (read: forcing) him to order the meatloaf?
Though a third general election in only about a year is a prescription for election ennui, Labour is riding a wave that just might crash, with all the fervor of an anti-austerity rally set to the tune of “Do You Hear the People Sing,” on the steps of 10 Downing. Hopefully, young voters enamored with their own civic duty and electoral influence after the results of the most recent election, will return empowered to the polls once again. Perhaps even New Labour Blair-ites will shift a little farther to the left at the prospect of
a Labour majority. I wonder what kind of campaign the Conservative candidates will run in order to mobilize voters that either haven’t been turning up for lack of faith, or that have turned up only to be dismayed (pun intended) by broken promises: maybe something like “We Know We Shot Ourselves in the Feet by Prematurely or Misguidedly Calling the Last Two Elections, but this One is Different We Promise?”
In general, I think it’s safe to say that the days of full confidence in polling numbers are, well, numbered. I predict many more late election nights, the one’s that drag on into the early morning as we watch the figures pile up and wonder what reverse universe we’re inhabiting while glaring at a screen and willing the results to shift in our favor. Gone are the days of trusting the predictive information we’ve been fed and flicking off the TV before 11 p.m. to turn in for a sound sleep, assured that we’ll awake to the status quo.
There is one thing American voters, specifically those in the 18-24 demographic, should take note of from their peers across the pond – one’s vote can drastically influence elections. Choosing to refrain from utilizing the most direct and basic form of political participation because one feels disenchanted by the establishment or as a protest mechanism is not a productive means of effecting change. Rock the vote, millennials. Tip the vote over.
In less than a year, Nigel Farage and UKIP, the man and party that incited the heightened nationalism that precipitated Brexit, has been disbanded and I have hope that the umbra of hard right wing leadership that seemed to be sweeping the West may be dissipating. As evidence, I cite first the election of Macron, and now a series of British elections that may berth a Labour government and the most unlikely and unprecedented ascent to power in British history.